Saturday, February 12, 2011
Signs of the Times
I have to hand it to the graffiti artist. He's learned how to quickly pull the spray can away from his "canvas" in order to make the paint fan out and thin while making stunningly beautiful calligraphic curves.
It's a sign of the times when such anonymous decorators are able to think more imaginitively than the highly educated, trained, experienced and so-called leaders of the world.
Sometimes, the signs of the times tell us that what we took to be the shape of things has become overgrown, obscured by having hung around long enough to deceive us into the notion of permanence.
As if the way things are is the way they always were. Or will be...
I remember when the communist regime of the former Soviet Union was falling apart under Mikhail Gorbachev. Mr. Gorbachev probably had a truer vision of real transition and change than anyone surrounding him at the time. But it wasn't speedy enough for folks. So they ran over him, and his ability to lead and influence collapsed all around him.
As things were rapidly coming apart, one of Gorbachev's one-time underlings and allies, Boris Yeltsin, had his foot on the accelerator of change without having much understanding of how to steer the democracy bus. Yeltsin was pushing things that Gorbachev thought unwise. Gorbachev pleaded with Yeltsin in the most personal way one does in Slavic tradition: by using a person's first and middle names.
"Boris Nikolayevich! Boris Nikolayevich! Boris Nikolayevich!"
Gorbachev called out again and again but to no avail. My older sister used to scold me at times when I was a youngster. "Roger Dennis," she would call. But if Gorbachev began by scolding, he ended by pleading, begging.
But he could not stop the momentum. The people were clearly with Yeltsin who would go on to become the head of a new non-communist government. Unfortunately, he hadn't a clue.
Unfortunately, most of the people were equally clueless. Given their history, how could it have been different? Many perhaps thought that simply by ending communism there would suddenly be store shelves full of STUFF like in the West. That they would have pockets full of money to buy all this stuff. That, slam-dunk!, all their problems would be solved.
It's no wonder that Russia today suffers from sham democracy, very high rates of alcoholism, drug addiction and HIV. Democracy is too weak to overcome systemic corruption in a time of shortage. There really is never the breathing room for this kind of turnaround. Corruption in Russia today has its hands on way more money than it did under communism. Way more. Most Russians today probably care not a whit for democracy. They want stability, order, a chance to grab some STUFF. Stuff motivates us, it seems. Ideals, perhaps not so much.
Egyptians are understandably euphoric. I understand. It will ebb. Reality will reappear. The economy, in all likelihood, will get worse, not better, over the next several years. Tempers may flare, patience may evaporate. And the technology for making car bombs, human bombs and IED's is now as widely known as how to rip music from CD's. It won't be smooth sailing. I pray for patience in the storms and swells ahead for Egypt and for the region.
Meanwhile, here in the USA, we'd be wise turkeys to pursue tasks we should have undertaken years ago, not only as a matter of national and economic security, but as a matter of doing the right thing for creation:
ENERGY CONSERVATION. ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. LAND CONSERVATION. FOOD SECURITY. RESTORING DOMESTIC PRODUCTION OF BASIC ESSENTIALS LIKE FOOD AND CLOTHING AND TOOLS. AS IN, EVERYTHING ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC. SHOES. HIGH SPEED TRANSPORT THAT DOESN'T INVOLVE MUCH COMBUSTION OF FOSSIL FUELS.
We can't get there by either of the following:
1) spending our way into oblivion
2) cutting our way back to the Stone Age.
We worship what our dollars say we do. We can't afford war. Literally. Figuratively. Morally. Fiscally. Honestly. Any more.
And we can't afford to not help Egypt go the right way as much as possible.
These are the signs of the times. Interesting days ahead.
I call 'em as I see 'em.